Lymphedema Questions Answered
Lymphedema is a medical condition whereby a build-up of fluid in soft body tissues causes swelling. The lymph system is made up of a network of lymph tissues and vessels, your lymph nodes act as a drainage system, so, when this drain gets blocked, the fluid cannot drain.
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What causes Lymphedema?
The Lymphedema condition can be caused by a number of factors. Some of the most common causes of lymphedema include Cancer because Cancer cells can block lymph vessels which may result in Lymphedema. Another cause is radiation treatment for cancer because the radiation can cause scarring and inflammation of lymph nodes. Other factors that can increase your risk of developing Lymphedema are older age, obesity and arthritis.
What are the symptoms of Lymphedema?
Symptoms of Lymphedema vary on the individual and range from mild to severe and although it may be caused by cancer treatment, it may not occur until months or even years after the treatment. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of lymphedema:
- Limited range of motion
- Feeling of tightness or heaviness
- Recurrent infections
- Hardening of the skin
- Feeling hot
- Tingling or numbness
How is Lymphedema Treated?
Although Lymophedema cannot be cured, there are methods to control it. The recommended treatment for this condition is decongestive lymphatic therapy, also known as DTL. This treatment requires both time and effort but is considered to be the most effective way to control Lymphedema.
Decongestive lymphatic therapy consists of four key components; compression bandages, skin care, exercise and specialised massage techniques. In combination with one and other, these treatments help to move fluid from effective limbs minimising further build up and swelling, it also helps to reduce infection.
This treatment is intensive and may need to be completed daily in order to get the best results and get the lymphedema symptoms under control. Once the DTL phase is completed, it should be followed by a maintenance phase where the patient will be encouraged to take over the care using simpler massage techniques and wearing lymphedema clothing.
What is Lymphedema Clothing?
Lymphedema clothing is a specialist compression garment that has been designed to stimulate lymph draining by counterforce the muscles. When a patient continues to do their maintenance phase such as exercising and wearing compression garments, it can help move fluid away from the affected area.